If you haven’t heard of this international collaboration of women, let me introduce you. It is called World Hijab Day. Since 2013, women from all races, countries, and faiths have shown their support for Muslim women who choose to wear hijab by donning their own scarves. As the slogan states: Before you Judge, Cover Up for a Day.
The initiative was the brain child of Nazma Khan who, after emigrating from Bangladesh to the U.S., suffered isolation, discrimination, and harassment because she wore hijab. Her story here:
As a non-Muslim in 1999, I myself wore hijab for a weekend to an ISNA convention. I was learning about Islam at the time, and what I found was that there was nothing oppressive about the scarf covering my hair or the loose clothes on my body.
I was surprised that I felt less self-conscious about my appearance and more self-possessed in my thoughts and actions. It was an impactful experience. In January of 2001 (two months after I converted to Islam), I decided to make hijab a permanent part of my life.
A few days ago, I stumbled upon an amazing lady who participated in this year’s World Hijab Day. And she has been gracious enough to take time out of her week to write about her experience for islamwich. Here is her coverage of World Hijab Day.
Evelyn Ambriz writes:
Throughout my childhood, I was raised Catholic, but as the years progressed, I began to question what the church I attended inculcated in me-I was particularly discontent with the idea of confession, feeling that I didn’t need a mediator to pursue a relationship with my creator.
I began searching for something different and attended Lutheran, Baptist, Non Denominational Christian, Southern Baptist, and Methodist services, but found no home in spite of my involvement within youth groups and even worship bands.
During college, I was able to explore beyond Christianity, which had been so integral for interactions with family, friends, and schoolmates in a very religious and conservative state.
Eventually, I came to feel that kindness towards, compassion for, and acceptance of my human brothers and sisters was more important to me than organized religion; at that point, I decided to just live a life I would look back on and be happy with, with the mantra that “people will remember (above all else) how you made them feel” and believing that we’re all interconnected and should exhibit compassion and love towards one another.
I can say that I believe that there is something greater than any of us out there-I’m just not sure what to call it or what it is.
In spite of my lack of participation within any organized religion, I felt compelled to participate in World Hijab Day for a variety or reasons. As a proud feminist, I firmly believe that EVERY WOMYN (I use “womyn” because I feel that patriarchy is embedded in our language including with the word “wo-men”) has the right to choose their own path, regardless of what others would choose.
I also feel that no one should be judged or persecuted for their beliefs-part of what makes humanity beautiful is our diversity. However, many of us only support others through anonymous words, rarely with action, where we can truly be vulnerable. So, when my good friend from high school, a Muslim convert, posted something about World Hijab Day on Facebook, I knew I had to participate.
I never thought that I would wear the hijab, but I am SO glad I did.
Throughout the day, friends of mine were confused by me wearing the hijab since I’m not Muslim, but were very supportive once I told them what World Hijab Day is all about: giving non-Muslim womyn the opportunity to see what it’s like to be on the other side of the veil.
My Muslim friends were excited to see me experience wearing the hijab, even if only for a day, and support poured in on Facebook. My neighbors were very pleasant, and I felt comfortable within all of my interactions through the day.
I do acknowledge, however, that I live in a very small and accepting community with a lot of diversity; therefore, my experiences may not be representative of others’.
More than anything, however, it gave me an immense opportunity for self-reflection and self-awareness. I realized how, um, colorful I can be when I speak, since as I wore the hijab, I was very conscious of my words since I wanted respect the sanctity of the hijab and not misrepresent Muslim womyn.
I, without really thinking about it, wore clothes that were looser than usual in order to complement, and again, respect, the hijab–although I did not expect it, throughout the day, I felt feminine and beautiful, and I realized that I didn’t need to wear something form fitting to feel that way.
I loved people focusing on my face, on my eyes, not below my neck or on my usually (distractingly) voluminous and curly hair during interactions; as a bonus, my hair wasn’t all over the place or in front of my face making getting work done much easier. Overall, I felt incredibly empowered.
I did, however, feel somewhat guilty because I received so many benefits of wearing the hijab without the backlash that my Muslim sisters may face; however, when I mentioned this sentiment a particular Muslim womyn, I had the opportunity to hear her tell me that she’s had nothing but positive experiences wearing the hijab and that she too receives support and compliments, reminding me that often times, we hear about the negative much more than the positive, restoring some of my faith in humanity, and frankly, easing some of my guilt.
I was given the opportunities to reflect on the social construction of femininity as inherently sexual and to support the rights of womyn, a small gesture instead of only anonymous words. I am grateful to have experienced a day from the other side of the veil.
It reinforced my support for my Muslim sisters’ choice to wear the hijab and my assertion that the ban in some places and negative view of the hijab is more than a religious issue; it is a feminist issue, it is a human issue-I will always defend my sisters’ right to wear the hijab and will always be grateful for the empowerment I felt wearing it.
We, at islamwich, are so grateful to Evelyn for her love, support, and courage. She is truly our sister in humanity!
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